Information and Social Norms: Experimental Evidence on the Labor Market Aspirations of Saudi Women

46 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2020 Last revised: 18 Aug 2021

See all articles by Monira Aloud

Monira Aloud

King Saud University

Sara Al-Rashood

King Saud University

Ina Ganguli

University of Massachusetts at Amherst - College of Social and Behavioral Sciences - Department of Economics; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Center for International Development

Basit Zafar

Arizona State University (ASU) - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2020

Abstract

How important are social norms, information gaps and family constraints in explaining the low rates of female labor force participation (FLFP) in conservative societies? To answer this question, we conducted a field experiment embedded in a survey of female university students at a large public university in Saudi Arabia. We randomly provided one subset of individuals with information on the labor market and aspirations of their female peers (T1), while another subset was provided with this information along with a prime that made their parents more salient (T2). We find that expectations of working among those in the Control group are quite high, yet students underestimate the expected labor force attachment of their female peers. We show that social information matters: relative to the Control group, expectations about own labor force participation are significantly higher in the T1 group, which is driven primarily by receiving information about their peers’ aspirations. We show that T2, as intended, causes students to report a higher importance of parents’ approval of their choices. However, we do not find that the impact of information is counteracted by evoking parental expectations: impacts for the T2 group on labor market expectations are not smaller than those for T1 group. However, T2 does lead to higher expectations of working in Education and the Public sectors - sectors that are more socially acceptable for women, suggesting that parental expectations their daughters’ labor market aspirations but partly shape them.

Suggested Citation

Aloud, Monira and Al-Rashood, Sara and Ganguli, Ina and Zafar, Basit, Information and Social Norms: Experimental Evidence on the Labor Market Aspirations of Saudi Women (January 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w26693, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3525934

Monira Aloud (Contact Author)

King Saud University ( email )

P.O. Box 2460
Riyadh, 11451
Saudi Arabia

Sara Al-Rashood

King Saud University ( email )

P.O. Box 2460
Riyadh, 11451
Saudi Arabia

Ina Ganguli

University of Massachusetts at Amherst - College of Social and Behavioral Sciences - Department of Economics ( email )

Amherst, MA 01003
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Center for International Development ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-9066 (Phone)

Basit Zafar

Arizona State University (ASU) - Department of Economics ( email )

AZ
United States

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